Week 2: 1 Corinthians 3:5-23

Who Owns the Congregation?

Engaging the Text:

  1. First Reading:

    Find a comfortable place where you will not be disturbed. Read 1 Corinthians 1-2:5 slowly and deliberately. What “jump out at you”? What stand out? What do you have a hard time with or what resonates with you?

    ~consider reading the passage aloud

  2. Second reading

    Read the passage again. Either after the first time, later the same day or on a different day. What questions arise from this reading? What did you notice in this reading that you didn’t earlier? What is happening? Is the reading one consistent section or can be broken up into different parts? Note the people and places named - have you heard of them before?

  3. Questions

    • Paul uses three metaphors to describe the church. Does one of these metaphors speak to you more than another? Why?

    • If the congregation is the building (as opposed to the physical structure), what might be some of the “materials” preachers, teachers and lay leaders can use as they work in God’s building?

    • Paul describes himself as a a servant (diakonos) or a deacon. Deacons where some of the earliest “officers” of the church. Compare and contrast what you think

    • Tribalism within the church, communities, and between denominations

      • What good does the competition do us?

    • Paul advocates for unity within the Corinthian church. Unity is sometimes used to maintain the status quo of oppressive power structures: “The Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is… the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” (MLK, “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”)

      • Is there room to “in-fight” when there is a group within the Body that you stand against?

      • When is disunity a sign of spiritual maturity? When is unity a sign of spiritual immaturity?

    • vv. 16-17 are quite extraordinary. The “you” in these verses is plural and refers to the whole congregation as God’s temple. How might this relate to Paul’s concerns about faction and disunity in the church?

    • How do we acknowledge and encourage God’s spirit (v. 16) to dwell and be active in our congregation? What are ways we hinder or hide the action of God’s spirit?

      • How do we know if we are Spirit led or self led?

    • Paul has a warning for “temple destroyers”. What is Paul talking about? Who are temple destroyers?

    • What does this passage say to me? What is the message for our church?


1 Corinthians 3:5-23

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,
‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’, 
20 and again,
‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
   that they are futile.’ 
21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours,22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org